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Full text of "Personal Sketches No. I. The Duke of Wellington"

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THE DUBLIN LITERARY GAZETTE, 



OR 



WEEKLY CHRONICLE OP CRITICISM, BELLES LETTRES, AND FINE ARTS. 



No. 2. 



SATURDAY, JANUARY 9, 1830. 



Price 9d. 



PERSONAL SKE.10HES. 
No. L 

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON. 

There wae more of shrewd observation, than 
generally belongs to witty savings, in tie re- 
ply of the French- lady, who being asked what 
she had found most remarkable in the many 
eminent men whom she had met; answered 
laconically, " fear mediocrite." We are all 
apt to form exaggerated . notions respecting 
those ' whg occupy a large space in the public 
attention, and will hardly believe, until expe- 
rience forces the truth upon us, that they, are, 
m many respects, upon a level with ordinary 
mortals. . The countryman who went a hun- 
dred miles to see the king, and came back be- 
wailing his disappointment, because he had 
only seen * -man with limbs like his own, 
whereas he had always supposed that the king's 
arms were a Hon and an unicorn, was more sim- 
ple in telling the nature of his anticipations, 
than singular in having formed an expectation 
so extravagant. Every one at a distance, 
forms to himself, almost unconsciously, an opi- 
nion that when he sees a very great' man, he 
shall see something that will .strike him as 
being very great ; and since those important 
actions, in which alone the great man differs 
from the ordinary man, occur but rarely, like 
those lofty points on a coast which mark it in 
the memory of the mariner, while the level 
land between, is undistinguished or forgotten ; 
the feeling that generaUg predominates in the 
mind of a stranger^ upon coming in contact 
with- a man of eminent character,, is that of 
disappointment. These reflections naturally 
occur to me in attempting a personal sketch of 
the most eminent man in Europe, of the pre- 
sent day, for since J do not, at present, aim 
at so ambitious a task as' the delineation of his 
political character, Or the history of his military 
achievements, . I shall have to speak of him in 
situations wherein .he would, appear but as an 
orSinary man, were these the only situations 
in which he had been known to the world. 

Portraits generally tell lies — they are like- 
nesses, but not like: they commonly represent 
people en beau, and give a grandeur and dignity 
to features of which their owner and his friends 
were probably unconscious, until the skill of 
the painter called them forth. Those who 
judge of the. Duke of Wellington's counte- 
nance by the highly finished prints sold in the 
shops, judge erroneously ; the caricatures 
give much more accurate resemblances, and 
some of them possess an exactness of simili- 
tude to the original, which is exceedingly ludi- 
crous ; for so far as his figure is concerned, one 
forgets that it is a caricature, and feels as if 
one were actually looking at the Duke, in 
whatever droll situation the caricaturist has 
placed him. The Duke has a remarkable coun- 
tenance, such as having been once seen, will 



not easily be forgotten— it is very spare, the 
features are large and prominent, and the face 
unusually long, and out of proportion to his 
figure, which is of the middle height, and as 
lean as if the diet of La Trappe were the or- 
dinary commons of Downing-street and Apsley 
House. It has been remarked that most very 
great men are, little, and lean : there is not a 
particle of "portliness," or grandeur of car- 
riage, in the outward man of the Prince of 
Waterloo, and Prime Minister of England; 
no worse personification was ever seen of the 
abstract idea of a John Bull; nothing to re- 
mind a foreigner of the roast beef of old Eng- 
land, in those thin and bony features, and 
small body tightly dressed, in clothes which 
seem as if they were made for some one even 
smaller than the man who wears them. Yet 
his outward appearance is not inexpressive of 
his habitual character. — The Duke is extremely 
active, but never bustling ; — always getting ra- 
pidly through business, but never in a hurry — 
cool, quick, decided, perhaps despotic, but be- 
yond all belief cool and firm, in circumstances 
where almost any other living man would be 
disturbed and undecided,. 

The two points in his general character, 
which most distinguish it from that of other 
men, are undoubtedly , his decision, and his 
noiseless activity. . To both these, but more" : 
particularly the former, his military and poll 
tical greatness. are chiefly owing; the latter 
is the quality which appears most remarkable 
in the ordinary routine of his lofty station. 
The Duke is to be seen every- where, he ap- 
pears to have tune for every thing ; at home 
or in war, amusement is not relinquished for 
business, nor is business ever neglected for 
amusement. I remember one day last Spring, 
which I devoted to exhibiting the London 
lions to a college chum, who had come from 
Dublin to qualify himself for the Irish bar, by 
devouring the contents of sheep skins, in the 
substantial form of roast mutton, at the Inner 
Temple ; we had the fortune at several stages 
of our day's peregrination, to cross the march 
of the prime minister ; and an account of our 
several meetings, may give some idea of how he 
spends a small part of his day. 

Any man who expects to make any thing of 
his day in London, must get up early. He " who 
deliberates" (in bed,) " is lost." ,We started 
therefore from the Salopian^ at seven in the 
morning, to take a round of St. James's Park 
before breakfast, and had got but halfway from 
the entrance opposite the Horse Guards to 
Story's Gate, when we met the Duke, snuffing 
the morning air, and looking sharply about 
him, as if he intended to- keep a strict eye on 
the park gardens," and see that the walks 
and borders were kept in due order. Pre- 
sently he disappeared in the direction of 
Downing-street, and probably attended to bu- 
siness at home until eleven, when he went to 
the House of Lords, which was his regular 



custom at that, the busiest period of the ses- 
sion ; there to spend three or four hours with 
the Committee on the London Bridge Bill, 
where Lords Londonderry and Durham kept 
np a continual wrangle about coals and other 
rubbish, which would, have completely over- 
whelmed the London Bridge people, but for 
the continued personal assistance of the Duke. 

But I wander from our day's Uon-huut: a 
little before three, we found ourselves admir- 
ing the beautiful entrance to Hyde Park, lately 
erected, which it is impossible not to gaze at 
with admiration of its fight and airy elegance, 
though there are so many objects in its imme- 
diate vicinity, which may well claim to divide 
the attention : the nearest, and unquestionably 
the most beautiful, of which, is that in days of 
yore yclept Apsley House, but which has re- 
cently come from under the improving hands 
of Sir Jeffrey, with the more imposing family 
name of the illustrious Duke, its owner, who, 
perhaps, would have called it " Waterloo 
House," hut that certain dealers in Pall Mall 
East have already monopolized that title, for 
their emporium of silks and ribbons. 

A shower disturbing our dream of architec- 
tural delight, we took refuge in that ever ready 
asylum, a hackney coach, and as the cad let 
down the steps, a horseman rode briskly out 
from the scaffolded mansion of the Duke, and 
with umbrella aloft, dashed into the park down 
Constitution Hill. " Have I not seen that 
man somewhere before ?" said my companion. 

"Yes — you saw -him this morning j it Is the 
Duke 'of Wellington, he has been surveying 
the. Svojks_ going on at his house; a cabinet 
council has been summoned for three o'clock 
to-day ;' it now wants five minutes of that hour, 
and he will trot into Downing-street just as 
the Horse Guards begin to chime the four 
quarters. 

At half past seven we were in the pit of the 
opera, Malihran was to sing, and the pit was 
filling fast, but the boxes were all empty, Bave 
one.—" Who is that early corner?" said the 
Templar, "who sits more than half hidden by 
the curtain, in that box to the left, almost 
over the orchestra." " We shall see presently; 
there— he turns liis head ; it is the Duke of 
Wellington." 

The opera had not proceeded more than 
half an hour, when my companion, who had 
attended, I believe* much more to the Dukc^s 
box, than to the stage, informed Hie that he had 
disappeared. « No doubt lie has — Lord Win- 
chelsoa has given notice of a motion for to-rriglit 
iu the House of Lords, and the Duke has gone 
to be present at it — perhaps we had better . fol- 
low his example, as you have seen the opera 
before, and may not again have so good 
an opportunity of witnessing a debate in the 
Lords." The proposal was readily assented to, 
and in a few minutes, our carriage wheels were 
rattling over Palace-yard. The space below 
the bar in the House of Lords, was unusually 



18 



DUBLIN LITERARY GAZETTE. 



crowded, however we speedily took up the most 
convenient position We could obtain, gnd lis- 
tened to old Lord Eldon, who had a huge bun- 
dle of petitions to present, and something to 
gay about every one of them j the Prime Mi- 
nister had not yet come, and Lord Ellenbo- 
rough sat alone on the treasury bench, but my 
companion soon called my attention from the 
grave and emphatic speech of " the old Lord 
Chancellor," to which I was listening, to a 
Man who tod just come in by the stranger's 
door, and was now with his back towards us, 
shoving the people aside and making his way 
towards the bar. 

•' Who the deuce can that be," said my friend, 
"who forgets to take off his hat, ana comes 
here with a thing over his shoulders, which I 
suppose he intends for a cloak, but I think it 

Is his wife's old blue petticoat, cut short See 

how he pushes on as if he intended to take 
the body of the house, by storm. — By Jupiter 
he is lifting up the bar, sure enough, and going 
into the house." — " As well he uiay, I know 
his walk now, it is the Duke of Wellington, 
hnd why he thought proper to come in that 
way he knows best himself — there now, you 
eee him silting down on the treasury bench, 
without speaking to, or looking at any body." 

The Duke's natural manner of speaking is 
abrupt and rapid, and his utterance is thick 
and indistinct ; of these defects he seems to be 
aware, for he labors to overcome them when 
addressing the House of Lords. His utterance 
is still thick, as if his mouth were too full of 
teeth, but he speaks deliberately, and expresses 
his ideas with clearness, brevity, and force. 
Yet were he nothing more than he appears in 
the House of Lords, the trumpet of fame 
would not proclaim the name of Wellington to 
the four corners of the world, nor would the 
goddess write it on her roll, for posterit^to 
read and wonder; hut when we see him on 
the treasury bench, listening to the tedious 
wrangling of a spiritless debate, we feel that 
we behold the man whose cool and searching 
eye, ere now surveyed those dreadful battle 
fields planned by his own victorious genius, 
and won by the gallant troops who rushed 
into the jaws of death, at his brief bidding ; 
and when we hear his voice dwelling, with 
somewhat painful deliberation, on matters 
relating to corn, or currency, we think of the 
" up guards and at them," which let loose the 
fury of ten thousand armed men, and swept, 
as with the besom of destruction, the vaunted 
invincible* of France. We wonder, as we 
look at his present employment, that one who 
lias moved the guiding spirit of events, full of 
such vast import, and immediate peril, can 
bring himself to the dull details of parliamen- 
tary warfare. It is, perhaps, matter of regret 
for many reasons, that I shall not now trust 
myself with detailing, that his services, in such 
a way, should be found necessary ; but I seek 
not to deprive him of even one leaf of his no- 
bly earned laurels. 

Neirae ego HK detrahere ausim 



Hwrontem capiti, multa cum laude coronam." 

Sometimes, but very rarely, he seems to 
grow impatient of his civilian occupation, and 
when he marches from his seat, to the fire, in 
the House of Lords, turns his back to the 
grate, aad gathering the skirts of his short 
frock coat under his arms, calls aloud to some 
noble peer, who is en his legs, to " speak up," 
■we perceive that the soul is still the soul of the 



Field Marshal, though the voice is the voice 
of the flm Lard of the Treasury. 

The Duke's conversational manner is more 
indicative of the man, than the manner of his 
speechesi Instead of " filling up" the convex* 
sation, as the phrase is, with questions, or 
replies, in which the fruit of the sense lies but 
scantily scattered beneath the leaves of the 
word** he suffers pauses, or gaps of absolute 
silence id the colloquy, and then bursts forth 
with his thought, in the abrupt and rapid man- 
ner we have before mentioned. Apart from 
military affairs, in which k will be readily 
conceded that no man sees farther or more 
clearly than the Duke, I should be inclined 
to say, that his mind is deficient in extent and 
profoundness of observation. No man grasps 
with more firmness, clearness, and certainty, 
that which his mind reaches at all, but habitu. 
ated, as he has been from his profession, to 
act promptly and decidedly upon the knowledge 
he had received, he does not (it would seem) 
trouble himself to ponder upon remote conse- 
quences in his political deliberations. 

Educated at a military school in Prance, 
and advanced to rank m his profession at an 
early age, he very soon distinguished himself 
for his skill in strategy, and for the fearless 
boldness of his tactics. He had studied the 
various duties of an officer with unwearied 
assiduity, nor was he less remarkable for cau- 
tion in difficulty, and strict attention to the dis- 
cipline and organization of the troops under 
his command, than for the quickness and the 
energy with which he availed himself of every 
possible advantage. The French, and other 
enemies at home and abroad, have ventured 
to insinuate that his successes were only a se- 
ries of fortunate accidents ; perhaps there never 
was a man against whom such a charge would 
be more obviously groundless. Cicero enume- 
rates good fortune among the hjdtapensable 
requisites of a great General,* yet we* know 
not the instance in which the Duke's success 
can be on any reasonable grounds ascribed to 
accident. He inspired in others the confidence 
he felt himself, because that confidence was 
known to result from a rational consideration 
of his own and the enemy's resources, and not 
from heady rashness or presumption. 

Yet withal I own my doubts whether the very 
highest order of intellect is necessary, or even 
useful, in military transactions. Judging from 
Buonaparte and the Duke of Wellington, I 
should certainly say not. One man may see a 
certain length, as it were intuitively, and de- 
cide and act upon the instant, while others, 
whose powers are of even a higher order, would 
require time and deliberation to arrive at a con- 
clusion at all, and characters of the latter class 
are undoubtedly less fitted for conducting mili- 
tary operations. I own I should not have 
thought, however, of ascribing to the Duke of 
Wellington the quality of 

. ** Calm heroic magnitude of mind," 

upon which he has been so prettily compli- 
mented. 

It is perhaps impossible that a mind should 
be so constituted as to possess the useful quali- 
ties which distinguish that of the Duke, in con- 
junction with very deep deliberative facul- 
ties — for such faculties lead to doubt, and to 
slowness of execution, and are incompatible 

* Ego enim sic existimo, in summo imperatore qnn- 
tuor MS res inecse oportere, stienttam re* raHitaris, 
riiiutem, mietariialxm, fiiUataltm. 

Cic.prokg.ltaml 



with that decision and rapidity, which may 
accompany acute «nd vrgototis, but -less pro- 
found views. 

I have a reason to believe that the Duke's 
mode of judging en general subjects is some- 
times chargeable with that fault which frequently 
belongs to those who are more remarkable for 
cleverly using the knowledge they have, than 
for knowing very much. He is apt to draw 
general conclusions, from particular instances, 
that have happened to come within his owa 
observation, and is too easily satisfied of the 
good or evil «rf» system, by his knowledge of the 
good or evil of its effects in a fewisolated cases. 

To men of warm feeling generally, and there- 
fore to his own countrymen, the Irish, in par- 
ticular, the Duke's character will appear such 
an one as maybe respected aad perhaps admired, 
but cannot be loved. His cold and stern pro- 
priety, seems never to be wanned by a flow of 
feeling, or kindled by the access of enthusiasm 
—he dismisses a minister, with the same appa- 
rent indifference as he Unbuttons his coat; and 
goes to fight a duel, or to eat a dinner, with 
apparently the same absence of emotion. He 
appears to do every thing, because he has pre*, 
viously made up his mind that it shall be done ; 
and this motive from his reason, being sufficient, 
none of the other ordinary impulses of humanity, 
seem to be called into action. 

The Duke's peculiar habit of applying him- 
self exactly to the matter before him, without 
the least reference to other things in connection 
with it, which most men would think it neces- 
sary to touch Upon, for the sake of avoiding 
bareness and, abruptness of style, is strikingly 
apparent in his epistolary Correspondence. Hfa 
letters, without being absolutely laconic, contain 
the whole matter which it is necessary they 
should contain, in a wonderfully small compass, 
and are as clear and decisive, as they are com- 
pact. His letter to Doctor Curtis indeed, i» 
one of the inexplicable things, which even he 
himself, can only account for, by giving it 
the name, which he would not suffer poor 
Mr. Hnskisson to bestow on his unfortunate 
epistle, videlicet, a "mistake" — but even this 
letter was candid and concise enough in style; 
whatever might be its merits, or demerits, in 
another way ; and generally, it must be allowed, 
that the Duke's letters are almost perfect models 
for business correspondence; the great im- 
provement in the style of modern diplomatic 
communications, is mainly attributable to him. 

I wish I could have followed the example 
which I have frequently admired in his letters, 
in this too meagre sketch, in which I fear the 
matter may be thought to bear but small pro- 
portion to the length ; but have I not Pascal's 
celebrated excuse? Had I more time I should 
have made it shorter — I hare only sought to 
give, as fax as I was able, that kind of acquaint- 
ance with the remarkable man of whom I have 
ventured to write, which strangers to the 
scenes with which I happen to be familiar, 
cannot be supposed to possess ; and if I have 
succeeded in making the readers of this paper, 
personaBy acquainted with the Duke of Wel- 
lington, ormore so than they Were before, the oW 
ject which I had in view has been accomplished. 

Out**. 

Every one will remember the disastrous and didieart- 
eniag state of stairs in the Peninsula, when Sir Ar- 
thur Wellesiey resigned the Chief Secretaryship of 
Ireland, to take the command there in the Spring at 
1808, and (.fleeted the liberation of Portugal in a bril- 
liant and glorious campttign of scarcely ten days dura- 
tion. We nave heard, but we cannot positively vouch-